Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The sad fat cat

It was a football Saturday, around 10:00 pm. It was absolutely jumpin! The first time I saw the guy, I was turning into the 600 block of State, off of Lake.

He was fat. He wasn't wearing pants, he wore some kind of exercise suit bottom, and he was wearing something like a hooded sweatshirt for a top. He had a couple of takeout bags in one hand, perhaps tacos in one and pizza in the other. He just didn't look real promising. People who carry around bags with tacos don't usually tip well, and given it was a football night, he'd probably expect me to single him out to timbuc two, so I drove past, as did the cab before me and the cab after me. There were literally hundreds of people who wanted a cab ride in the next 4 blocks, so there were lots of passengers to pick from.

In the course of an hour he migrated 2 blocks to the corner of State and Gilman. I'd pulled over to get a group of 4 who were waving, and he rushed up to me, and frantically begged me to take him anywhere, he said he'd give me a hundred bucks to take him anywhere, just get him away from State st. I don't think I've ever been asked for a ride by a person who looked more terrified. I told him I'd take him were ever it was that he wanted to go. I knew why he wanted to go anywhere, he'd told a driver or 2 where he really wanted to go and they told him they wouldn't go there. When he was safely seated in the back seat, I asked him again, where to? He gave me a street name that rung a bell, but I couldn't place it, so I asked him where that street was. Off Lacy rd. he said. Near Fish Hatch? Yes. No question in my mind, he'd been told they wouldn't take him there, it's quite a way from downtown, perhaps 6 miles. So, we were off.

The first thing he talked about was what a terrifying place State st. was. He said that in an hour of attempting to flag a cab, he'd seen 5 fist fights. I've seen a lot of fights on State st. myself. Have you ever seen a guy get hit over the head with a beer bottle? I was sitting in front of The Pub one night and I watched a guy come out of Chesty's, and start to walk down the street, when a guy rushed out of the bar and hit him over the head with a beer bottle, just like in the movies. The guy was immediately covered with blood, but it didn't faze him, he spun around and blasted the guy with a single right. The guy who swung the beer bottle went stiff and went down about the same as if someone had a plank standing on end and just let it fall over. The guy who was covered with blood, turned around and continued to walk down the street like nothing special had happened. You can definitely see fist fights on State st.

Once he'd gotten the fear out of his system, he started talking about losing his daughter. His daughter had been a undergrad, until she'd been killed in a traffic accident earlier in the fall. He had more children, but only one daughter. It was easy to tell, it was dominating his life, and would for quite a while to come. He said that if he were to live life over again, he'd have more children. It sounded like that would be the focus of his life if he had it to do over again, and as we all know, children and family are not the focus of many men's lives. I had to change the subject, it was just a little too sad for me.

He said he ran a couple of hedge funds, he was from Chicago. Now, I knew why his destination rang an odd kind of bell. I'd taken people there before, but never the same people, and they were always from out of town. Now I knew what that modest 3 bed room ranch in Fitchburg really was, it was the cottage up north. When I think of a cottage up north, I think of a flimsy house on a lake, decked out in hunting and fishing decor, but I'm not a big time fat cat. This was a cottage up north for excursions to party city, Madison, Wisconsin, for some rich people from Chicago. I guess......... What the allure of this terrifying place called State st. would be for big city people is I just couldn't tell you, a lot of bars and drunk kids, woo hoo.

I guess he did offer to be generous, he started to offer me a stock tip, but I declined saying that my timing was always terrible. He said that timing was everything in the stock market.

When we got to his cottage, he said, "I know I promised you a hundred bucks, but the fare can't be anything close to that...........", and I cut him off. I told him that no matter what he promised, all I could legally charge him was the fare calculated as stated on the door of the cab, he owed me something like $18.00 and as always tips were at the discretion of the passenger. He gave me a fifty and asked me if it was enough. I told him that any tip offered by a passenger was appreciated. He told me to keep it, and I hung around long enough to see that he'd gotten the combination correct for the garage door. As he was stepping into the garage, I was turning the corner, heading back down town.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What do you suppose is news worthy?

A high speed chase after a bank robbery? A body lying on the side of the road, close to death, hit late at night and left to die? Neither, from what I've seen.

It was the a football Saturday. The Saturday night before Halloween. It was fat, the money was real good that night, Bucky won and clinched the first Rose Bowl bid since the '60's. I was driving home around 3:45am, and at the intersection of John Nolan and Olin, I passed what looked like a guy sleeping on the shoulder of the road. I said to myself, it had to be a Halloween prank, it was way to cold for anybody to be sleeping on the shoulder of the road, he'd be freezing. I got down to my turn onto Rimrock, and I had to go back for a second look, that guy just looked too real.

John Nolan was tore up at the time, so it wasn't a divided boulevard like it normally is. My first reaction was to pull up with the head lamps on the guy, get out, and take a close look. Then I said to myself, wait a minute, what happens if he jumps up pointing a gun at me and says he wants my wallet and keys, thank you very much? I just won't take the chance, so I slowly pulled up on the shoulder on the wrong side of the road. I noticed a red stripe down the center of his head, as if the skin had been split and pulled apart 1/2" or so, yeah that's real, and he's either dead or close to it. I got out of my car and walked up to the body, it was quivering ever so slightly, so he was still alive. I looked immediately at his feet, no shoes. He was a pedestrian who'd been hit by a car, knocked out of his shoes. I found his shoes 50 feet away.

There wasn't much traffic but I was trying to stop every car that passed. The ones that did stop, I asked if they had a cell phone, if memory serves, it was the sixth car that had a cell phone and called the cops. The lady who called the cops told me they said they were coming, and she took off down the causeway toward downtown. It didn't take long for the first squad to arrive, and an ambulance came pretty quick too. Within 20 minutes there were dozens of squads, they had John Nolan closed from North Shore to Rim Rock, and there were scores of cops out with flashlights looking for what ever they look for.

The cops went through the immediate stuff with me, did I hit the guy? No. Take a look at my car, no I didn't hit him, who ever hit him hit him hard, look at how far away from the body the shoes are. Then they looked at the car a little, looked into my eyes to see if I'd been drinking, and thank god I hadn't had a barley pop after work. The guy got scooped up pretty quick and was gone, they let me go after around 30-40 minutes.

I watched the news the following day, no mention of the fellow who I was sure was going to die. 2 days later, when I started driving to work, I passed a Sheriff's squad that looked like he was working radar about 4 blocks from where I lived. The only problem with this was, I lived on Sandhill road out in the boonies, NE of Oregon. Why would a cop be working radar on a road that only had perhaps 5 cars pass per hour? He wouldn't, but if he was staking me out, because he wanted a second look at my car in the daylight, it might make sense to sit there. He pulled me over, immediately, saying he needed to cite me for not wearing my seat belt. He got his look, gave me the 10 dollar ticket with no points, and I was off on my way. Let no good deed go unpunished.

I kept watching the news, and listening to the news on the radio. I looked at local paper everyday for a week, and there was no mention of that fellow, none what so ever. After another week, I stopped a cop on State st. and asked if she was familiar with the victim I'd found, she said she was. Note, this is now 2 weeks after the guy got hit and left to die. She said, he had indeed died that night. She went on to tell me that the person who did it went to the Sheridan (corner of Rimrock and John Nolan), and used the phone to inform the police that he'd hit a pedestrian, and it had been ruled a legitimate accident. What?????? If that's the case why was it that I needed to call the cops, why did they want first and second looks at my car. Then I called the news director at the local ABC affiliate, and the guy actually talked to me. I asked him if he was familiar with the accident and death, he said he was. Well, why isn't it on the news???? His reply shocked me, he said it wasn't news worthy.

News worthy? Vehicular homicide isn't news worthy? Since when? If I killed a pedestrian, it would be news worthy. Indeed, not only did the ABC affiliate chose to not cover it, every radio station and every news paper chose to not cover it either. At this point, I guess I should share one small detail that I haven't yet included, the guy who got killed was probably an itinerant who was camping in the woods behind the Sheridan. Guess his life wasn't worth much.

A story that did get covered in the news, but could have been a REALLY BIG story was a high speed chase that went past me one afternoon. I was pulling up to the light a the corner of Schroeder rd. and Gammon, when this car went flying past me with a cop hot on his tail. They both went past in the oncoming side of the street, and ran the red light, narrowly missing a major collision. I watched as the guy tried to do a power slide turn on to New Washburn, and miss it, he crashed into the median, and the cop was out of the squad with a gun drawn in an instant.

Hmmm, interesting. I had a delivery to make and one to pick, so I didn't have time to rubber neck this fracas, and continued past the cop with the gun on my way south on Gammon rd. When I got to Raymond rd., what should I see but a mobile recording truck for one of the local TV stations. I don't know what they were doing, but what ever it was, they were mostly just milling around. I pulled up and told them that if they were interested in a high speed chase and accident, they could take pictures of it at the corner of Gammon and New Washburn. They didn't bother, I mean who cares what a cab driver in a cab says, right?

The accident they didn't cover was the end of a high speed chase following a bank holdup. That cop caught that bank robber.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Somebody did a doougie in this cab?!?!?!?????

I will forever remember that line as the single funniest thing I've ever heard said in my cab. In 30 seconds I went from a slow smoldering rage to laughing so hard, I couldn't stop laughing for 3 days. Here's how it went..........

It was a normal winter afternoon. I started at 3:00 pm., and I headed out to the east side to start. I was lucky. I was going to sit on a couple of metro's that came out of the east Y at 3:30, when a delivery popped on Milwaukee st. I got the delivery, and as I got back in the cab the dispatcher stuffed me the metro's. Wow. What a start! I was going to go down the beltline and across the south beltline all the way to Verona rd. I was set for rush hour.

When I pulled behind the east Y, Koombiiyah came out right away. Koombiiyah? Yeah, she chant's koombiiyah like a broken record, which will drive you right out of your mind. I have a long standing deal with Koombiiyah, if she keeps her mouth shut she can sit next to the window in the front seat. She waddles up to the cab, opens the passenger door to the front seat and gets in. I say to myself that she must have been playing basketball or something, she really smells like she needs a bath. It takes around 3 minutes for the other passenger to come out, she's the quiet type, she sits in the back seat and never says a word.

I start off down Stoughton rd., and I'm hitting everything in sight!!! By the time we get past Cottege Grove rd., the smell is getting pretty bad. I tell Koombiiyah to roll down the window.

"I don't wanna roll down the window. I think I be cold", she says.

This goes back and forth a couple of times, me telling her to roll down the window and her refusing. Finally I tell her that if she doesn't roll down the window, she's going in the back seat. "Why I gotta go in the back seat?", she sighed, "I not singing."

"Roll the window down, and roll it down now!!!!!"

She gave in and rolled it down. Sitting in the front seat was very important, and she'd act about like a 6 year old. Usually she's actually a sort of fun passenger. How many 40ish dwarfs use a ball point pen as a make believe cigarette, take fake puffs off it, and tap fake ash's off it?

I had passengers in and out, delivery's in and out, and when I finally got to South Towne, the cab was loaded, 5 passengers, so she had to scoot over and let a rather elegantly dressed woman in, who wore a white car coat. The woman in the white car coat was going to the dealer to pick up her Lexus, she sat right where Koombiiyah had been sitting.

When I got to Leopold Way to where Koombiiyah got out, she waddled away from the cab toward the building. There was a wet spot on the seat where she'd been sitting, and it was steaming in the cold winter air. The stench was beyond description. As she waddled away, I could see the dark circle on the back of her coat about hip pocket high. It was immediately obvious, she'd been sitting in a pile since she'd gotten in at the east Y. I was ready to kill somebody!!!!!!! Oh, my god!!!!!!

I still had another oblivious passenger in the back seat, he sat there like a Spinx, and if he smelled it, he never let on. I went to the gas station at Todd drive and used the window squeegee to clean the seat. Thank god those Diplomats had vinyl bench seats. With the windows open, I took the last passenger to Lumley, and I was empty.

A short time later, I got a lady from Allied drive to south Park (yes, that south Park, in fact). I told her all about it, and she said that she figgured I had a perfict right to be as wound as I was. She gave me her sympathies, paid me, got out and I sat and steamed for a few more minutes.

Then I got 2 rides to do. The grocery for 3 people going to Fisher st., and a single from Bram to Sommerset. I pulled into the grocery and there were 2 huge black ladies and a skinny black man waiting with 3 carts of groceries. The guy got in the front seat, while the ladies filled the trunk. When they sat down, they told me the address, I put the cab in drive and lifted my foot off the brake.

The cab hadn't moved 3 feet when the black guys finger went past my nose. He was pointing out the drivers window, his hand right in front of my face. He said, "Hey man, I left something in that cart. I left something in that cart."

I put my foot back down on the brake and turned and looked in to the darkess to see what he'd left in the cart. Then his finger was right in front of my head, he was pointing at me and his finger was only 2 inches from me. "Ah hah!!! Ah hah!!! I didn't leave nothing in that cart!! Ah hah!! Ah hah!! I gotcha!!!! I didn't leave nothing in that cart!! Ah hah!! Ah hah!! I gotcha!! I gotcha!!", the skinny black guy really thought he was funny.

I slowly turned. His finger was about 2 inches from my nose. I lifted my finger and pointed it at him and coldly said, "You, got me?!? Why do you realize that less than an hour ago, somebody shit their pants, right where you're sitting??"

He came off the seat faster than anybody I've ever seen. He was holding himself up with both hands, one on the door rest and on the seat between us. The ladies in the back seat roared, they thought it was hysterical, "Ahhhh hah hah, you had to sit in the front seat. Ahhhhh hah hah........."

The guy sputtered out, "Whut, whut??? You mean somebody did a doougie in this cab?????" Then he slowly slumped back down onto the seat. "Oh man, I'm sitting in doougie. Oh man, I can smell it!!"

The ladies in the back seat continued to roar. He made me let him get into the back seat.

I didn't stop laughing for 3 days.